29 May

My revenge – 7-Dorpenomloop Aalburg, Netherlands – Part II

The second race the day after my first UCI race in Europe I knew what would be ahead of me. And I am not entirely sure if that helped.
I knew it would be fast right from the start, aggressive and dangerous with all street furniture (that’s how the street obstacles were called). Was I prepared? Well, one thing I learned from the day before is that I should be able to hang with the main group.
One big thing I would learn is how far one mentally can go.
The course was flat, like Dutch flat. The entire elevation gain of the 120km course was 98 feet. It was super windy. The race followed through a lot of towns with street furniture so paying attention was important the entire time. 
To not make the same mistake as the day before I wanted to line up early so I could start in the front but when I arrived 20 minutes before the race start it was already too late and I had to line up second to last row.
Race started fast as expected. We raced through the town of Aalburg towards the country side. We were 5k into the race. 
Suddenly on a flat, straight road I saw riders in front of me stopping abruptly and then bikes were flying. 
My back wheel slipped sideways but I was able to stop just in time. 
Others couldn’t. It didn’t look good at all. 
It took me at least 20 seconds to get through the crash to be able to ride again. I wasn’t sure how many riders were ahead of the crash but it couldn’t be that many. I started riding as hard as I could. I didn’t want to be done with the race after only 5 k!
A group of six people formed and we grew bigger and bigger as we picked up racers ahead of us. We saw the main field ahead of us. We chased. I pulled with a few racers. 
This time I was not satisfied with a chase group. My energy drained quickly. I pulled hard. I started getting  tunnel vision. The cross wind was extremely difficult but the peloton was so close! 
Follow vehicle passed us but we passed them right back because the main field slowed down in the towns. The cars were in the way so we couldnt take the corners fast and lost distance to the peloton again. 
We kept chasing. After about 15 mi we had a distance to the peloton of maybe 150 m and there was no one who wanted to pull. I couldn’t believe it so I went to the front and pulled myself to the field and whoever was behind me. 
I made it!!! I couldn’t believe that we were able to catch a group of 50 racers! But when I looked at the distance remaining, I learned another level of disbelief – 60 more miles! I was totally exhausted, how am I supposed to race the same pace for another two hours?
I was absolute last, hanging by a thread on the peloton. Any acceleration was detrimental to my goal to finish this race. 
Everything hurt. I was exhausted. Why don’t I get a flat? That would give me at least a reason to stop pedaling.
The person ahead of me fell of the peloton I had to jump to fill the gap. Where did I just get that energy from? I felt like I relived the race story of Tim Krabbe in his book ‘The rider’.
The field slowed down. Are they only doing that so the acceleration would be just so much harder?  Basically. Because it was a tailwind section before a strong cross wind section. I hate cross wind sections. I am not only exposed to the speed of the field but also nature. Two enemies! 
Then I was thinking of the legendary racer who pushed so hard during a race that he bit
down to his gum line. That was my motivation for the next cross wind section. I made it. We were in another town. The field slowed down.
Where are we by the way? We were supposed to do three big laps and three small laps. Since my focus was more on the wheel ahead of me than on the course, I had no clue. Ok, how would I know how many laps still to go? 
Ah…the finish line…how often did we pass the finish line? I think twice. Or maybe three times? I forgot. 
Ok, that doesn’t help. Let’s check the distance on my bike…40 mi. Well, 120km is the race. What was the conversion again? Ok, Monika, great brain exercise to keep you entertained. Think think think…73 mi….that means we still have to race 33 miles! I had to start laughing. That was a good joke. 
OK, but Monika, you haven’t seen the broom wagon yet, that’s an improvement! You are still hanging on to the main field with some National teams. Good work! If you get dropped now you still could say that you improved from the day before, right? 
Single-file through the cross section again. How often do we have to do that??? 
Next town. The field slowed down. Feed zone. I really liked the feed zones. No one would attack. I didn’t have to worry to get dropped. I could move up without elbowing. I was one of the few ones who didn’t take any water because I didn’t need it. I didn’t have time to take my hands off the bars to drink. So my bottles were still full. 
The motor ref came by us and showed us the time of the lead group ahead of us. Three minutes. Fine by me. 
Check of the distance. 50 mi raced so far. Great, only 25 more miles. Ok, lets not check the bike computer before 55 miles. We are going 30mph right now so I will check after the next cross wind section. Deal!
54.9 mi. Close enough. Next target 60 mi. That would be 100 km. Sounds pretty far. Suddenly I didn’t like the slow riding through the town anymore because the mileage wouldn’t go fast enough. 
60 mi. Sweet. Only 14 more miles. Now, Monika, you better don’t get any damn flat! And if you get a flat, you will chase and if getting passed then motor-pace the broom wagon. I don’t care! Time is over to be weak. We are so close! It’s basically the commute into work. It’s that easy!
65 mi. I start recognizing laps. I believe only two more laps. So if I get dropped now, I still finish the race because I wouldn’t interfere with the peloton. 
Wrong thinking. How stupid does it look like to come to the finish line by yourself? You stay here with the peloton!
We are nearing the finish line. The bell should ring for the last lap. We are getting close. I don’t hear the bell! Where is the bell? Or is that an American thing? Wait, we are not at the finish line yet, that was the 1k to go arch. Ok, Monika, relax. I hear the voice from the loud speaker. Something in Dutch, then English, then German. He said last lap and ahh yes, here is the bell! Yes!!!!
Ok, last lap. What’s my plan? I could pass the entire field and try to sprint? Haha! Where did that come from? Well, something more realistic. What about not finish dead last? Ok, more realistic. 
The peloton slowed down. No one wanted to pull anymore. Only at the last corner, the field accelerated again and sprinted for the last 200m. To make sure I really don’t get dead last, I pulled my last energy together and passed some racers. 
I made it!
Out of 160 racers, 99 made it to the finish line. I got 95th. I felt like I won!
Our team car
Our team jersey

Riders lined up for the first race in Valkenburg

Racing through super small and curvy country roads

Three of us before the Aalburg race

Lining up for the second race
Few minutes before the race

Lined up second to last row 🙁

Our team (from left): Simon, Sara-Lena, me, Lena, Marie, Claire, Claas
Pic for the sponsor. The guy in the distance on the left was so confused what we were doing.

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